Often, a big part of depression is feeling a lack of direction and purpose. If this has become an issue for you, use journaling to better understand what’s going on.
People who are motivated, with goals that excite them, are not likely to feel depressed. But when optimism takes a holiday and pessimism moves in, we can become sadly conscious of aimlessness, dislocation, not knowing where to go or what to do.
Many of us don’t think about life purpose, but whether or not it’s on our minds, it guides our actions. If you’re convinced your life’s purpose is to fight crime in Chicago, or to care for your sick husband, or to be the best salsa dancer in Laramie, Wyoming, then you know how to live, you know what to do. Purpose provides the path.
Though they may never think about it, their purpose as caregiver or nurturer, problem-solver or go-to guy, healer or mediator gives meaning to the lives of many a mother, hairdresser, administrative assistant, construction worker, or parking lot attendant.
The lucky ones among us are convinced they are serving some purpose with their lives. In their role as parent, child, teacher, student, leader, follower … whatever … they are strong in their commitment and that, in turn, gives them a sense of belonging and power.
When the cycle dips, though, it’s another story. When you’re hit broadside by depression, loss, failure, or some other total devastation you are cut loose, groundless, lost in space.
At those times, it’s impossible to say what your purpose is. By definition, the state you’re in excludes meaning, stability, or harmony.
Your journal, though, has some solutions for you if purposelessness becomes uncomfortable. If recognizing some purpose, some personal reason for being, has become an obsession for you, pick up a pen and explore some of the following paths through journaling.
- What has guided your purpose at previous points in your life? Make a list and then select the items from it that you like best.
- Consider the purpose of some of your heroes – of fiction, history, current or past celebrities, characters, and leaders. What purposes do you admire?
- What is a person’s purpose, anyway? What does that mean, to have a purpose?
- Is a purpose really necessary, or is it possible to live a good and satisfying life without feeling a sense of purpose?
- Do I want to have a purpose in my life? Why or why not?
- What are some possible purposes that I could adopt? Which of them is especially appealing?
- What is standing in the way of commitment to purpose for me? Be brutally honest here; there is a solid reason you’re not letting yourself be inspired. Own up to it.
Of course, just doing these journaling exercises won’t result in an immediate sense of purpose for you. But they are a start, and they’ll bring your purpose closer in.
In large part, becoming convinced of your purpose is an act of grace. Like good sex and bad colds, if the stars are aligned, you’re infected. You can’t force it. It’s not like you decide what your purpose is to be. Rather, purpose lands on you and adopts you as its own.
So be open, keeping an eyes-wide lookout for the purpose that seeks you. Every day, ask your journal, “What is important today? What is most important, over all else?” Let your responses reveal purpose, slowly, over time.
Let your journal do the work of self teaching self.